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Justin Smith Morrill (April 14, 1810 – December 28, 1898) was a Representative (1855–1867) and a Senator (1867–1898) from Vermontmarker, most widely remembered today for the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act that established federal funding for establishing many of the United States' public colleges and universities.


Born in Strafford, Vermontmarker, Morrill attended the common schools, Thetford Academy and Randolph Academy. While he never attended university, he was granted an honorary degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1884. He worked as a merchant’s clerk in Strafford 1825–1828 and in Portlandmarker, Mainemarker, 1828–1831; merchant in Strafford 1831–1848; engaged in agriculture and horticulture 1848–1855. He was initiated into the Delta Upsilon Fraternity as an honorary member in 1860.

In 1852 Morrill was elected as a Whig to the Thirty-fourth Congress and as a Republican to the five succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1855–March 3, 1867). He was the author of the Tariff Act of 1861 as well as the college land-grant act mentioned above. He served as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means in the Thirty-ninth Congress.

In 1866 Morrill was elected as a Union Republican to the U.S. Senate. He was reelected as a Republican in 1872, 1878, 1884, 1890, and again in 1896, and served from March 4, 1867, until his death, almost thirty-one years. He served as chairman of the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds (Forty-first through Forty-fourth Congresses) where he played a vital role in obtaining the current Library of Congressmarker main building through his work on the Joint Select Committee on Additional Accommodations for the Library. He also served on the Committee on Finance (Forty-fifth, Forty-seventh through Fifty-second, Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Congresses), as regent of the Smithsonian Institutionmarker 1883–1898 and as trustee of the University of Vermontmarker 1865–1898. He died in Washington, D.C.marker, December 28, 1898. He is buried in the City Cemetery in Strafford, Vermont.


Justin Smith Morrill
Justin Smith Morrill is most widely known for sponsoring the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act. This act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. This act established federal funding for higher education in every state of the country. In his own words:

"This bill proposes to establish at least one college in every State upon a sure and perpetual foundation, accessible to all, but especially to the sons of toil, where all of needful science for the practical avocations of life shall be taught, where neither the higher graces of classical studies nor that military drill our country now so greatly appreciates will be entirely ignored, and where agriculture, the foundation of all present and future prosperity, may look for troops of earnest friends, studying its familiar and recondite economies, and at last elevating it to that higher level where it may fearlessly invoke comparison with the most advanced standards of the world."
—1862, as quoted by William Belmont Parker, The Life and Public Services of Justin Smith Morrill

Many colleges established under this act have a 'Morrill Hall' named in honor of Justin Smith Morrill's contribution to higher education. In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 55 cent postage stamp of Morrill to honor his role in establishing the land grant colleges, the forerunners of many state universities.

He also authored the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862, which targeted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based on the then-existing practice of plural marriage (polygamy). On January 6, 1879, in Reynolds v. United States the Supreme Courtmarker, upheld the Anti-Bigamy Act's ban on plural marriage.

The Morrill Tariff of 1861 was a protective tariff law adopted on March 2, 1861. Morrill was its House sponsor; he designed it with the advice of Pennsylvania economist Henry C. Carey. It was one of the last acts signed into law by President James Buchanan, a Democrat from the pro-tariff state of Pennsylvania. The Morrill Tariff replaced the Tariff of 1857, which was considered favorable to free trade. Two additional tariffs sponsored by Rep. Morrill, each one higher, were passed during Lincoln's administration to raise urgently needed revenue during the Civil War.The Morrill tariff was adopted against the backdrop of the secession movement, and provided an issue for secessionist agitation in some southern states. The law's critics compared it to the 1828 Tariff of Abominations that sparked the Nullification Crisis, although its overall rate was significantly lower.


  • Cross, Coy F. Justin Smith Morrill Father of the Land-Grant Colleges. Michigan State University Press: 1999. ISBN 9780870135088.
  • Memorial Address on the Life and Character of Justin S. Morrill. Government Printing Office: 1899.

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